Supreme Court declines to commute Balwant Singh Rajoana's death penalty : The Tribune India

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Supreme Court declines to commute Balwant Singh Rajoana's death penalty

Asks Centre to take call on Beant assassin’s mercy plea

Supreme Court declines to commute Balwant Singh Rajoana's death penalty

Balwant Singh Rajoana. - File photo



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, May 3

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to commute the death sentence of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh assassination case convict Balwant Singh Rajoana to life imprisonment and asked the Centre to take further decision on his mercy plea as and when it deemed necessary.

In Executive’s domain

It’s within the domain of the Executive to take a call on such sensitive issues. Three-judge Bench

Delayed petition

It is evident that the argument regarding pendency of the mercy petition and there being a delay of over 10 years cannot be sustained. Firstly, the petitioner never submitted any mercy petition. The alleged mercy petition of 2012 was filed by the SGPC. Top court

“The stand of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to defer the decision on the mercy plea of the petitioner is also a decision for reasons given thereunder... It actually amounts to a decision declining the same for the present,” a three-judge Bench of Justice BR Gavai, Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Sanjay Karol said.

“It is, however, directed that the competent authority, in due course of time as and when it is deemed necessary, may deal with the mercy petition and take further decision,” said the Bench, which had on March 2 reserved its verdict on Rajoana’s petition seeking the commutation of his death penalty on the grounds that the Centre had failed to take a decision on his March 25, 2012, plea till date. Convicted of assassinating Beant Singh in 1995, Rajoana has been in jail for more than 27 years, awaiting his execution. The former Punjab Chief Minister and 16 others were killed in an explosion outside the Civil Secretariat in Chandigarh in 1995. He was sentenced to death in 2007 by a special court. His mercy petition has been hanging fire for more than 11 years.

Writing the judgment for the Bench, Justice Vikram Nath said, “We also find that the Ministry of Home Affairs, upon material consideration of various reports from its different branches, has come to the conclusion that the consideration may be deferred as it could have an impact on compromising the security of the nation or creating a law and order situation.”

“It would not be within the domain of this court to delve upon the decision of the competent authority to defer taking any decision at present. It is within the domain of the Executive to take a call on such sensitive issues. As such this court does not deem it appropriate to issue any further directions,” Justice Nath wrote.

On behalf of Rajoana, senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi had argued that keeping the petitioner on death row while sitting over his mercy plea for such a long time violated his fundamental rights. Citing Devender Pal Singh Bhullar’s case, the petitioner had claimed that the “delay caused by circumstances beyond the prisoner’s control mandates commutation of the death sentence” as the inordinate delay caused agony and adversely affected his physical and mental health.

On behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj had contended that Rajaona’s mercy petition could not be considered as it was filed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and not by Rajoana and that it could not be decided until the appeals of other convicts were decided by the top court.

Natraj told the Bench that considering the prevailing situation, a decision had been taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs that it would be appropriate to defer any decision on the mercy petition as it could potentially compromise national security and create a law and order situation.

Refusing to commute Rajoana’s death sentence, the top court said, “From the above facts and circumstances, it is evident that the argument regarding pendency of the mercy petition and there being a delay of more than 10 years cannot be sustained. Firstly, the petitioner himself never submitted any mercy petition. The alleged mercy petition of 2012 was filed by the SGPC.

In jail since 1996

Aug 31, 1995: Then Punjab CM Beant Singh, 16 others die in blast

Jan 27, 1996: Balwant Singh Rajoana arrested

April 30: Charges framed against Rajoana and others

July, 27, 2007: Rajoana awarded death sentence

Dec 10, 2010: HC upholds conviction; no appeal in SC

March 25, 2012: SGPC files a mercy plea before the President

2020: Rajoana moves SC seeking commutation of death penalty to life term

May 3, 2023: SC rejects plea, asks Centre to take a fresh decision on mercy petition

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